Well, not quite – of course we’ve got some mouth-watering Quarter-finals coming up. This World Cup was always going to be something special, and the Pool Stages certainly haven’t disappointed. There’s been high drama, heartbreak, elation and everything in between as 20 teams were whittled down to the final eight. We’ve seen dazzling skills, remarkable strength, records broken and some of the all-time great matches play out over the last three weeks or so, with plenty more to come.
We went into the World Cup already knowing there were some serious rugby A-listers appearing across the pools – your Barretts, Vunipolas, Sextons and Du Toits. But over 40 matches we’ve seen several players from around the world put their hands up to be considered amongst rugby’s elite.
Every member of the Japanese squad who’s graced the field thus far has been virtually impeccable, with Kotaro Matsushima, Timothy Lafaele, Kazuki Himeno, Keita Inagaki and the mercurial Michael Leitch being particular stand-outs amongst a whole team of stand-outs! Springbok Cheslin Kolbe has been electric, Argentinian hooker Julián Montoya caught the eye with a hat-trick against Tonga, while Fiji’s Semi Radrada has been in scintillating form in every game – the electric runner has put in a strong case to be the player of the pool phase.
Though it’s been an incredible tournament thus far for a whole host of positive reasons, the 2019 tournament will also go down in history as having the most ever red cards – by a long shot! On top of the actual cards brandished on the field, there have been a handful more bans handed out following post-match citing hearings. When Ireland’s Bundee Aki was given his marching orders against Samoa he became the seventh player to be red carded. The large number of cards can, for the most part, be attributed to a World Rugby crackdown on tackling height and players simply not adjusting to new laws. With eight matches still to come, players are going to have to be particularly careful to not earn the referee’s wrath in the knockout stage – who can forget Sam Warburton’s infamous red in the 2011 semi-final?
Look away Scotland fans… when it came to that final pool match on Sunday, those cheering for the team in blue seemed to be in the minority. Japan, as a country and as a team, has well and truly captured the world’s imagination. From the adorable mascots who have learnt every word of every team’s national anthem to the incredibly smiley fans and the remarkable organisation to get the final pool game to go ahead following Typhoon Hagibis, the host nation has truly done itself proud. And that’s without even considering the utterly captivating on-field exploits by the Brave Blossoms. Each of Japan’s pool matches offered up sensational action, with a free-flowing style of rugby and awesome handling skills any Tier 1 Nation would envy. With Japanese side Sunwolves recently booted from the Super Rugby tournament, all eyes are now on World Rugby to see what's next for this wonderful rugby nation.
Speaking of Japan, you can’t think of the best matches thus far without considering the host nation. After seeing off Russia in the opening match of the tournament, the Brave Blossoms then went on to beat Ireland – the number one team in the world at the beginning of the tournament – 19-12 in an upset that blew Pool A wide open. Japan went into the final showdown against Scotland knowing that a win would put them top of the pool and into the quarter-finals for the first time in their history. That match, a scintillating 28-21 win for the home side, will go down as one of the greatest clashes in history, and was finalised with jubilant scenes from across Japan. Truly, nothing can really hold a candle to the skill, drama, jubilation and heartbreak from that match, but honourable mentions must go to the top-quality play between New Zealand and South Africa, the Pool D clash between Wales and Australia, and Uruguay’s remarkable victory over Fiji.
So, after virtually non-stop excitement throughout the pool phase, we now turn our attention to the knock out stage. As we’ve already seen, anything can happen in the Rugby World Cup 2019™, Japan, and we can’t wait to see which teams progress to that all-important final.
We still have limited availability for our luxury packages to watch the Quarter-finals at Rugby World Cup 2019™, Japan. Get in touch with our Rugby Specialists today to secure your place at sporting history.